Florida Polytechnic University sophomore on a mission to help space travel

Sep 19, 2019
Florida Polytechnic University sophomore on a mission to help space travel
Mechanical engineering major Elise Araiza shows a model of Lucy, a planned NASA space probe that will travel to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids to collect data and images.

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series of feature stories that highlight diversity on Florida Poly’s campus and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Elise Araiza traces her family’s roots to Mexico, Brazil, and Spain, and she’s mindful of the opportunities she has that her parents and grandparents did not.

“That’s why I wanted to challenge myself here at Florida Poly with a mechanical engineering major,” said Araiza, a sophomore at Florida Polytechnic University.

Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15, and Araiza is spending time reflecting on her family’s roots, particularly her grandfather’s journey as a migrant farmworker up and down the California coast before settling on the Texas border.

“When we visit our family in El Paso, (Texas), we can go up in the mountains and see Mexico and see how life is different there and see where we came from,” Araiza said.

Knowing her family’s sacrifices, Araiza is determined to dream big as she follows her passion: space. She has been working to help solve problems in space exploration by participating in two Lucy Student Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler (L’SPACE) Virtual Academy courses.

“NASA has technology roadmaps for the upcoming five years and they describe needed technologies for future and upcoming missions,” Araiza said. “We looked through one of the roadmaps and found that they needed technologies for thermal management systems. From that, we brainstormed and started working on our proposal for a technology that could potentially solve this problem.”

She and her 10-member team of college students from as far as Arizona worked together online to develop a proposal for an advanced technology solution that placed in the top three at this summer’s L’SPACE Academy, which was hosted by Arizona State University and sponsored by NASA.

The team is keeping project details under wraps as they continue working on their plan because they hope to present their solution to NASA for future missions and eventually patent the design.

In addition to the L’SPACE project, the Lakeland native has signed on to be a Lucy Asteroid Ambassador. Lucy, a space probe set to launch in October 2021, will be the first mission to travel to and study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

“We’ll be explaining to the public what the Lucy mission is all about because not many people know about the Trojan asteroids,” Araiza said. “They’re one of the first objects in the solar system and we want to figure out how the solar system came to be based on those objects.”

As she explores the challenges of solving problems in space, Araiza is hopeful that with her drive and determination she can serve as a role model to other students.

“I hope that with what I do I can inspire someone else of a Hispanic background just to go for it and experience all you can in the time you’re here at Florida Poly,” Araiza said.

Lydia Guzman
Director of Communications